Monday, April 18, 2016

Findmypast release more than 75,000 records revealing the stories behind the Easter Rising and Ireland under Martial Law

17 April: Findmypast launches online today the most complete collection of British War Office records relating to the Easter Rising and Irish War of Independence from 1916-1921. The collection, digitised from original records held by The National Archives in Kew, reveals the struggles of life under Martial Law in Ireland, and demonstrates how events under the occupying military served to galvanise support for the rebels.

Totalling more than 75,000 records, the collection will be free to access for ten days at Findmypast from today, 17 April, in advance of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising on 24 April 2016.

More than 3,000 people were injured or killed in a conflict which saw three civilians killed for every one rebel. The records reveal the impact that the conflict had on men, women and children across Ireland. There are eye-witness accounts, interviews with civilians and reports of the trials of the leaders of the Rising and their sentences of execution.

The once classified records shine new light on the subsequent period of Martial Law in Ireland which was declared by the Lord Lieutenant in 1916, including the War of Independence, when the British military assumed control of the executive, judiciary and legislative arms of the entire country.. The contents of the collection provide a picture of what life was like for ordinary citizens in Ireland during this turbulent time.

The 25,000 search and raid records show the efforts of the military and police to discover arms, ammunition and seditious material through thousands of raids as well as their search for individuals associated with Sinn Féin, Irish Citizen Army, Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Army. Members of the public accessing the records on Findmypast will find the names of the thousands of people who were detained and interned in prisons in Ireland, England and Wales and tried by courts martial, including the names of prominent nationalists and elected officials.

Military correspondence between the barracks in Dublin and the War Office in London grants new perspectives on the motivations and fears of the British Army leadership. The movements and actions of several key nationalist figures are also documented, including those of James Connolly, Eamon De Valera, Thomas Ashe, Joseph MacDonagh, Arthur Griffith, Padraig Pearse and Francis and Hannah Sheehy Skeffington and Countess Markievicz.

Key items from the collection include:
  • Daily situation reports sent by the British Army from Dublin to London between 24 April and 12 May 1916 documenting events during the uprising
  • A report from the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief confirming the execution of iconic Irish socialist and rebel James Connolly, who owing to injuries sustained in the conflict had to be strapped to a chair before being shot
  • Court martial reports sentencing prominent nationalist, politician and suffragette Countess Markievicz to two years in prison for “assisting and promoting crime and murder”
  • Witness statements from civilians caught up in the Rising
  • Documents authored by Michael Collins seized from a safehouse used by the nationalist figurehead
  • Details on raids of pubs such as the Brazen Head, hotels, nationalist club houses such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and thousands of homes
  • An urgent and secret warning from Sir C Spring Rice, British Ambassador in America, of gun running in Ireland
  • A telegram to the Prime Minister to report the expected surrender of the rebels from the Lieutenant General John Marshall
  • Internment files including the personal letters from prisoners or their relatives testifying to their innocence
  • Details on the hunger strikes of interned prisoners
  • Secret documents that reveal the British Military’s own concern with some of the behaviour of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC)
The collection was digitised in partnership with The National Archives in London and contains documents from their WO35 series, War Office: Army of Ireland: Administration and Easter Rising Records. Totalling more than 110 million records, Findmypast has the largest Irish family history collection available online.

Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Records at Findmypast, comments:
“These records constitute an extraordinary resource which will transform the search for answers about our ancestors' activities during 1916 and the years that followed. While those who fought were small in number, the war impacted on the lives of ordinary people in many ways. We’re extremely fortunate to have these records to help us make some sense of it.”
Neil Cobbett, Irish records expert at The National Archives, said:
"This represents a major contribution and potentially a vast step forward for public understanding of these events from all points of view. It will really help to throw light on the actions of participants and the whys and wherefores of what happened. Whether you are a researcher seeking answers to some of the bigger questions, or a family historian or biographer, this collection will help you in your historical research, or in finding out about your forebear's or other participant's involvement."
This important publication marks yet a further step in Findmypast’s commitment to making Irish family history more accessible. Findmypast is home to the most comprehensive Irish collection available anywhere online with over 110 million records including millions of exclusive records, published in partnership with The National Archives of Ireland, The National Archives UK, and a host of other local, county and national archives.

About Findmypast

Findmypast (previously DC Thomson Family History) is a British-owned world leader in online family history. It has an unrivalled record of online innovation in the field and 18 million registered users across its family of online brands, which includes Lives of the First World War, The British Newspaper Archive and Genes Reunited, amongst others.

Its lead brand, also called Findmypast, is a searchable online archive of over eight billion family history records, ranging from parish records and censuses to migration records, military collections, historical newspapers and lots more. For members around the world, the site is a crucial resource for building family trees and conducting detailed historical research.

In April 2003, Findmypast was the first online genealogy site to provide access to the complete birth, marriage, and death indexes for England & Wales, winning the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Since that time, the company has digitised records from across the globe, including the 1911 Census and the recently released 1939 Register which they digitised in association with The National Archives.

About The National Archives

The National Archives is one of the world’s most valuable resources for research and an independent research organisation in its own right. As the official archive and publisher for the UK government, and England and Wales they are the guardians of some of the UK's most iconic national documents, dating back over 1,000 years. Their role is to collect and secure the future of the government record, both digital and physical, to preserve it for generations to come, and to make it as accessible and available as possible. The National Archives brings together the skills and specialisms needed to conserve some of the oldest historic documents as well as leading digital archive practices to manage and preserve government information past, present and future. /